Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Second-year Morenci head football coach Joseph Garcia gets a ride as he observes his team working the blocking sled.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – Forty-nine student-athletes took part in Morenci’s first day of football practice Sept. 8. It was 14 more than on the first day in 2019.
“We look really good for the first day of practice,” second-year Morenci head football coach Joseph Garcia said. “They have the opportunity to get better.”
This season’s team was unable to hold a fundamentals summer camp but got nearly an additional six weeks of workouts instead.
The Wildcats were involved in off-season workouts for seven weeks beginning in June and since the district’s first day of distance learning classes on July 29. A switch to a split schedule was made Aug. 31.
These sessions differ from previous years. Students’ individual temperatures are checked before each session’s start, attendees wear face coverings, equipment used is sanitized, and participants’ hands are sanitized before they depart.
Seniors and juniors both number 10, sophomores 12, and freshman 17. The seniors include Frankie Araiza, Dakota Bamburg, Clayton Basham, Adam Chacon, Hugo Mancinas, Maddux Martinez, Paul Daniel Moreno, Lance “LT” Morey, Alfredo Vigil, and Jaydin Yazzie.
Juniors on the team are Dimitri Briggs, Dominick Chavez, Brenden Enriquez, Shawn Hudman, Nicholas Patterson, Tony Roybal, Jericho Sanchez, Kaden Summer, Richard Trott III, and Christopher Wile.
The dozen sophomores include Tyler Aguilera, Dillen Aker, Devynn Avant, Gavin Baca, Patrick Chavez Jr., Koen Epperson, Rick Funari, Gabriel Hernandez, Daylem Johnson, Jalen Kitcheyan, Mateo Palomarez, and Derek Saenz.
Freshmen have Ryan Biggs, Melicio Briggs, Michael Casillas, Andrew Chavez, Alberto Cobos, Angelo Hammond, Javier Hernandez, Aaron Mason, Frank Morales, Austyn Nelson, John Provencio, Emilio Roybal, Tristen Sanchez, Joseph Seballos, and Donovan Vozza.
Garcia is in his 15th year of coaching and his staff includes Isaiah Aguinaga, Matthew Castillo, Matthew Garcia, Art Martinez, Jason McEuen, Benji Morales, Josh Sandoval, and Esai Vanegas.
The Wildcats ended 2019 in Glendale at the hands of No. 2 Trivium Prep. The Crimson Knights came from behind to oust No. 15 Morenci (4-7 overall, 1-3 Black Region) 35-28 in the first round of the state playoffs.
Morenci has a seven-game regular-season schedule, opening up with two non-region teams the school has yet to face.
Phoenix North Pointe Prep visits Lawson Stadium on Oct. 2, and the Wildcats travel to Gilbert to take on the San Tan Charter Roadrunners on Oct. 9. The 2A Verde Region Falcons were No. 22 in 2019, ending with a 4-6 record with one of their losses being 30-8 to Trivium Prep. The Roadrunners are in the 2A Salt Region, finishing a program-best 8-2 in a different classification last season.
The Wildcats’ next five games are in region play, at Bisbee (Oct. 16), versus Tombstone (Oct. 23), versus Benson (Oct. 30), at Willcox (Nov. 6), and versus Pima (Nov. 13).
Morenci is 29-8 (.784) overall against its five opponents in the San Pedro Region, 4-5 in region pairings and 13-1 in section play during the past decade (2010-19). The Wildcats are 4-1 (.800) versus the Bisbee Pumas, 2-0 in Morenci, with an average score per game of 29-17 (144-85) or a 12-point margin; 8-0 (1.000) vs. the Yellow Jackets, 5-0 in Tombstone, with an average score per game of 46-16 (371-128) or a 30-point margin; 5-4 (.556) vs. the Benson Bobcats, 1-2 in Morenci, with an average score per game of 23-21 (205-188) or a 2-point margin; 9-1 (.900) vs. the Cowboys, 5-0 in Willcox, with an average score per game of 35-12 (349-119) or a 23-point margin; and 3-2 (.600) vs. the Pima Roughriders, 2-1 in Morenci, with an average score per game of 25-20 (123-98) or a 5-point margin.
There are 34 teams in the 2A class competing in six regions for the 2020 campaign, five with six teams apiece, and one with four teams. Last season, 37 teams were in seven regions.
The Agua Fria Region has Avondale Saint John Paul II Catholic, Glendale Prep, Kingman Academy, Parker, Tonopah Valley, and Trivium Prep; the Gila Region has Chandler Prep, Eloy Santa Cruz Valley, Laveen Heritage, Maricopa Sequoia Pathway, Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, and Wellton Antelope; the Salt Region has Gilbert Arete Prep, Globe, Holbrook, Miami, San Tan Charter, and Saint Johns; the Verde Region has Camp Verde, North Pointe Prep, Phoenix Valley Lutheran, Phoenix Veritas Prep, Scottsdale Christian, and Scottsdale Prep; and the Rillito Region has Tucson schools Catalina, Santa Rita, and Tanque Verde plus Mesa Sequoia Charter.
Morenci has a home scrimmage with Pima on Sept. 24.